N is For Night Ape

The night ape is one of the smallest primates in the world, about the size of a squirrel, commonly found in the forested parts of Africa. The Afrikaans term is nagapie (little night ape). Another name for the delightful little creature is bushbaby, which I adopted (see my blurb). Despite its size, the night ape is exceptionally vocal, producing loud shrill cries surprisingly like those of a human baby.

I can attest to that, I had a bushbaby as a pet when I was thirteen: Little One. We got him from one of those Congolese trader s who used to stand by the side of the main roads to the other Copperbelt towns peddling everything from monkeys to parrots. The poor creatures were almost always starving, some of them barely a couple of weeks old, after being taken from mothers who’d been killed for their babies. I died a thousand deaths every time we passed one of these men.  Thank God, it wasn’t that often.

Little One could fit into the palm of my hand when we got him. During the day, he slept in my dressing gown pocket, which I kept in my wardrobe. He got around by making kangaroo-like hops across my room or by simply walking or running on all four legs. When he got a fright, he’d shoot straight up in the air to a height of at least six feet with a loud shriek, his eyes almost popping out of his head. He loved to bounce from my dressing table to my desk to the curtain valance and then hang there before dropping down onto my bed. Mostly, I slept like a log. Other times, I’d call to him and he’d snuggle into my neck, making small tock tock sounds, his tail curling around my face in swirl of downy fur. And then one day, he got out. I was heartbroken. I kept a lookout for him for a long time.

14 thoughts on “N is For Night Ape

  1. Such a cute tale. I like the image of him getting into a fright with his eyes popping out and the loud shriek. Today, I’m talking about narrative and Alice Neel for N, so pop on by if you like.

    1. Thanks Tim for the visit and encouragement. I’m hoping I don’t falter along the way to Z as I’m leaving for the UK tomorrow to visit an old school friend from the old homeland Zambia.

  2. I take it you never found him?? What a sweet but sad story. Little One sounds adorable. Is that a picture of him in your post? He’s precious. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me sick to think there are animal traders like that.

  3. You have lived such an interesting life. How wonderful for that little baby to have been rescued by you–heartbreaking when others have no compassion for creatures great and small. Travel safely!

  4. Night apes are smaller than Bush babies. Apparently they use their urine to keep their ears soft and supple. As a child, I had a night ape orphan for a while. As it grew, the night time acrobatics did too. Mother said enough. Ended up in Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, with lots of other night apes for company.

    1. Hi Joe, thanks for the visit! The Afrikaans word for bushbaby is nagapie, which as you probably know means little night ape; they’re one and the same creature. Interestingly, there’s also a dwarf bushbaby which can be found in East Africa and Sierra Leone and Uganda. Sweet little creatures. So sorry you lost the companionship of your little pal.

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